Nine-time winner Uncaptured Storm — who changed hands five times last year, winning at least once for whomever he ran — has been selected the 2023 National Claiming Horse of the Year.

The National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association (NHBPA) presents the award to shine the spotlight on horses that are exceptional at their level of competition, with claiming horses comprising the largest segment of racing across America. Uncaptured Storm and his connections will be honored at the National HBPA annual conference to be held at Iowa’s Prairie Meadows in July.

Uncaptured Storm, now 4, is currently owned by Rick Burnsworth and Bush Racing Stable and trained by the Mid-Atlantic-based Anthony Farrior.

“He just brings his race with him wherever he goes,” Farrior said. “This award is terrific. It’s hard to get stakes horses. But if you can claim a horse and still get a little publicity over it, that’s great.”

Burnsworth is having a blast with Uncaptured Storm, fitting for the president of Douglas Explosives. (His work includes blowing up rock formations for interstate construction and projects requiring excavation, he said.)

“He loves to win,” Burnsworth said of Uncaptured Storm, a chestnut Florida-bred son of Uncaptured out of the Stormy Atlantic mare Spirited Storm. “Heart of gold. Temperament is incredible. Beautiful animal. I’ve played a lot of sports in my life, and he’s what we call a winner.”

Uncaptured Storm won nine of 18 starts last year, with four seconds and a third while racing predominantly against older horses at Laurel Park, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races and Timonium Race Track. All his wins and $208,726 of his $220,476 bankroll came in 2023. The nine victories tied for second-most in North America, as the gelding raced from $12,500 maiden-claiming up to $40,000 claiming to an entry-level allowance, back to $10,000 claiming and back up to $40,000.

To win Claiming Horse of the Year, Uncaptured Storm beat out another horse trained by Farrior and owned by Burnsworth in the filly Divine Fashion, whose 10 wins tied for the most in North America in 2023 with the Nebraska- and Wyoming-based Fayette Warrior.

“The National Claiming Horse of the Year definitely went through the Mid-Atlantic this year,” said Pennsylvania HBPA executive director Todd Mostoller, who chairs the National HBPA’s awards committee. “In fact, another strong contender was his stablemate Divine Fashion. But ultimately we thought Uncaptured Storm is the epitome of the hard-knocking claimer who shows up every race, making money for everyone who has him in their barn while racing almost exclusively in straight claiming races.”

Uncaptured Storm was claimed for maiden-claiming $12,500 on Jan. 8, $10,000 on July 29, $20,000 on Sept. 8, $16,000 on Nov. 5 and $20,000 on Nov. 12. Each time he won at least once before being claimed again.

Farrior has had the gelding more than anyone, claiming Uncaptured Storm three times, including for himself at the beginning of the year. Farrior lost the horse via claim to trainer Mario Serey Jr. and owner John Chamatsos twice, claiming him back both times for Burnsworth, who at the end of the year sold part-interest to Bush Racing Stable.

“He’s a happy horse, a pretty horse, always keeping good flesh to him,” said Farrior, whose 226 wins ranked No. 4 in North America last year.

Burnsworth has dozens of horses in training, plus more on a farm he and Farrior bought near Charles Town in the lower Shenandoah Valley. He tied for seventh in victories in last year’s North American owner standings with 80 wins out of 301 starts for purses exceeding $1.35 million, according to Equibase statistics. Burnsworth won another 18 races in 2023 in partnerships, including with fiancée Kristina Buyea. Claiming accounts for about 70-percent of his horse business, he said, but he does buy some young horses and he’s also acquiring broodmares.

“You can’t be more blessed: to end up having the No. 1 Claiming Horse and the No. 1 win horse in 2023,” said Burnsworth, who resides in Southington, Ohio, not far from Mahoning Valley Race Course. “That’s just amazing. I’m so proud, so proud of the people who work for us.

“… Since Anthony and I hooked up two years ago, it’s been a blast.”

Burnsworth had owned horses for several years when his toddler daughter, Kelsey, was diagnosed with leukemia. He got almost completely out of racing to concentrate on Kelsey’s health, a battle the animal lover and aspiring photographer lost at age 18 in 2011 after twice seemingly beating the blood cancer.

Burnsworth said that he and Buyea, along with his former wife Jessica Burnsworth, began teaming with North Mar Church in Warren, Ohio, on an initiative called Kelsey’s Angels, which assists families staying around the clock at hospitals to be with their critically ill children — an underserved need he saw first-hand.

A chance encounter with Farrior at Charles Town led to Burnsworth plunging back into racing in a big way in 2022. He first called his daughter Devin Petulla to see what she thought.

“She said, ‘Dad, it’s a passion of yours. This is what Kelsey would want you to do. If anyone knows how to do it, it’s you,’” Burnsworth recalled. “Meaning, we love our animals. We take care of them. We try to do the right things, no matter the cost. She said jokingly — she knows I love the Blues Brothers movie — ‘Why don’t you get the band back together and get your mind off of everything else?’

“… When I got back in, I said there’s only one set of racing silks I’m racing in,” he said. “Kristina and I got blue silks with a white cross. These are God’s creatures. He’s just letting me borrow them, and I’ve got to treat it that way.”

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Cover Photo Credit to Coady Photography

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